A beekeeping programme aimed at empowering women and conserving biodiversity was officially launched in the presence of Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie earlier this week, according to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

The “Women for Bees” programme aims to conserve Apiscerana and Apisdorsata, honey bees which are native to the Angkor Archaeological Park. It will also promote sustainable beekeeping and empower women by helping them earn a living for their families and communities.

According to a February 22 announcement by the Apsara National Authority (ANA) – a state body tasked with managing the Angkor Park – Jolie paid a working visit to the park from February 20-21 and attended the official launch of the UNESCO-Guerlain Women for Bees programme, facilitated by ANA.

Jolie is the godmother of the programme, which is sponsored by the French perfume company “Guerlain”, it said.

“Jolie also took the opportunity to visit Angkor Wat and, with her significant presence, helped to promote the site to the world. Her visit will help to assure the world that – even during the Covid-19 pandemic – Cambodia is a safe tourist destination,” it added.

Women for Bees is a state-of-the-art female beekeeping entrepreneurship programme launched by UNESCO and Guerlain.

Implemented in UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves around the world with the support of the French training centre Observatoire Francais d’Apidologie (OFA), the programme has Jolie as a godmother, helping promote its twin objectives of women’s empowerment and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use.

Jolie told People magazine in late 2021 that she was working with UNESCO and Guerlain on a beekeeping initiative for women.

“This programme plans to build 2,500 beehives and repopulate 125 million bees by 2025, while training and supporting 20 female beekeeper-entrepreneurs to operate on their own,” she said.

“We want to make sure there are at least 50 women from 25 biospheres, to understand the biospheres and why it is important to map out and build the team. We are going to be working further with UNESCO to understand how to expand how we are working with some of these countries and biospheres — the next training will be in Samlot, my home in Cambodia,” she said.

UNESCO says that by focusing on the protection of bees, their welfare and repopulation as well as education, the programme aims to enable women’s social emancipation through an expertise-driven sustainable professional activity.